A 4-course, 4-star success: Spanky's hosts meal and wine pairing event for 150 hungry patrons

As ticket holders began filing into Spanky's Stone Hearth in Vergas, Minn. for a four-course meal and wine pairing event, presented by the Detroit Lakes Breakfast Rotary, on Oct. 11, they expected a delicious evening of adventure for their palates and Head Chef Michael Kasper provided everything they craved.

Special four-course meal served at Spanky's Stone Hearth in Vergas, Minn., on Oct. 11, 2022. From top-left: beet Caesar salad, pan-seared salmon fillet, charcoal grilled New York strip steak, house-made apple crisp al a mode.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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VERGAS — More than 150 hungry ticket holders crowded into Spanky's Stone Hearth in Vergas, Minn., for one of the restaurant's famed four-course meal and wine pairing evenings on Tuesday.

The Oct. 11 event was sponsored by the Detroit Lakes Breakfast Rotary and also featured door prizes and raffle giveaways throughout the meal.

Josh Hanson, a chef and owner of the restaurant, said, while Spanky's Head Chef, Michael Kasper, was in charge of preparing the meal for the event, the whole kitchen worked together to provide a memorable fine dining experience.

"There was wonderful flow and the kitchen was on their game, as they always are," said Hanson. "We were able to use a lot of local, fresh ingredients."

A graduate of Perham High School in 1996, Hanson purchased the restaurant from the late Chuck Minge and his wife Brenda in 2005. In 2010, a fire at the restaurant caused extensive smoke damage, but the restaurant was rebuilt and reopened. While the look may have changed, the quality remained impeccable.


When asked what he thought guests would remember from the event, he said: "Out of the four courses, I think the salmon course and the New York strip course are going to stand out ... those courses had a lot of incorporation of our fresh ingredients from our garden down the hill."

As the first course, a beet Caesar salad, was delivered to the tables, several guests noted they were not a fan of beets. The hesitant lifted their forks anyway.

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Beet Ceasar salad with fresh romaine, Spanky's garden beets, pistachio and shredded Parmesan cheese served at Sparky's Stone Hearth in Vergas, Minn., as the first of a special four-course meal on Oct. 11, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“Holy s***, I just ate a beet and liked it,” one person said. “It’s delicious! How is this delicious?”

The beets offered fresh lake flavor with a silky texture that blended gently with the crunch of fresh romaine and pistachios, shredded parmesan cheese lightly coated with Caesar dressing and balsamic reduction. When followed with a sip of Eric Louis Sauvignon Blanc, the flavor bloomed.

Each of the four courses was delectable in its own way, though as a lover of all things seafood, one reviewer was most looking forward to the second course: Fresh, pan-seared salmon served with a pistachio and parsley crumble, spinach Florentine sauce and a glass of Les Volets Pinot Noir from France.

Pan-seared salmon filet, spinach florentine sauce, pistachio and parsley crumble served at Sparky's Stone Hearth in Vergas, Minn., as the second of a special four-course meal on Oct. 11, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"Unexpectedly, the fish came with a small square of puff pastry on top, and my only complaint of the dish was that the flaky pastry was not large enough to include in more than two or three bites," the reviewer said. "The fish was perfectly grilled, and the sauce and crumble it was served with provided just the right hints of crunchy pistachio and creamy, cheesy spinach on top of it all. I tried to eat it a little more slowly, to savor all the different flavors, but it was just too good."

Another reviewer, a self-admitted seafood resistant, thought they would have to bring a to-go box and provide the salmon course to a co-worker who was working that evening and not able to partake in the culinary adventure. But, after pressing down on the salmon fillet with a fork, it flaked apart with ease. A modest bite of the fish, spinach and crumble resulted in a soft apology to the absent co-worker, as there would be no to-go box.

The third course featured charcoal-grilled New York strip steak cooked medium-rare to rare with garlic mashed potatoes and a large broccolini served on top of a roasted garlic beet puree. The steak and potato course was paired with a Two Vines Cabernet that began with a sharp flavor, but slowly dissipated across the taste buds about 10 seconds after the sip.


Charcoal grilled New York strip steak, garlic mash potato, broccolini and roasted garlic beet puree served at Sparky's Stone Hearth in Vergas, Minn., as the third of a special four-course meal on Oct. 11, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

As the steak knife cut through the seared exterior, the juicy pink center of the prime cut was revealed and yielded a full-bodied flavor that was only positively accented by the garlic potatoes. A sip from the cabernet enhanced and elongated the flavor of the meat and potato, creating a savory experience with each bite.

"Each delectable bite streamed my mind with memories of steaks-past, and the Spanky's New York strip truly holds up against some of the finest cuts of meat I've ever enjoyed over the last 30 years," one reviewer said.

The broccolini was cooked to perfection, not too crunchy and not too soggy; reflecting a perfect middle ground and a culinary demonstration of how difficult vegetables, like broccoli, are to cook well.

Last but not least came the “Sweet Finish,” as it was referred to on the menu: Homemade apple crisp, served a la mode (i.e., with ice cream) with a glass of sweet white wine, an HD (High Def) Riesling from Germany.

House-made apple crisp al a mode served at Sparky's Stone Hearth in Vergas, Minn., as the fourth of a special four-course meal on Oct. 11, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"I couldn’t get enough," the reviewer said. "The tart apple and brown sugar crumble, sweet vanilla ice cream, and smooth white wine were an unbeatable way to finish the night."

Like hands in wet cement, the legacy of quality food at Spanky’s is permanent. The four-course pairing hit the bulls-eye of their mission statement, which is to provide "a memorable and personable dining experience for each guest, in a comfortable and welcoming environment."

Spanky's Stone Hearth won the 2022 Best of the Lakes Area awards for:

  • Best Fine Dining
  • Best Cocktails
  • Best Dessert
  • Best Ribs/BBQ
  • Best Wine List
  • Best Catering

Hanson said Spanky's does two meal and cocktail pairings and two meal and wine pairings every year, but also said the restaurant could accommodate smaller parties of guests and even couples with slimmed-down pairing experiences per reservation. Check the Spanky's Stone Hearth Facebook page for details on future events, and call 218-334-3555 for reservations.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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